Who Wrote the Patriotic Anthem “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”)?

My country, ’tis of thee / Sweet land of liberty / Of thee I sing / Land where my fathers died / Land of the pilgrims’ pride / From ev’ry mountainside / Let freedom ring, plays the patriotic anthem “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee.”

Videos by American Songwriter

Also known as “America,” the song once served as an early national anthem for a young United States before “The Star Spangled Banner” was officially adopted in 1931. The hymn, however, can still be heard today, sung in celebration of the nation.

Who Wrote It?

The lyrics to “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” were written by a Baptist minister, named Samuel Francis Smith, in 1981 while he was still a student in seminary school. He set his words to the tune of Great Britain’s national anthem, “God Save the King.”

Smith penned the hymn because of a request from composer Lowell Mason, who asked Smith to translate lyrics from a German songbook. It was then he was inspired to write what would become “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee).”

Notable Performances

“America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” is often pulled out at public events for special occasions. Some notable performances of the anthem have included Aretha Franklin’s 2009 performance at President Barack Obama’s first inauguration into office and Kelly Clarkson’s 2013 performance for his second.

However, the most notable performance of the song was Marian Anderson’s 1939 showcase on the steps in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The African American contralto had been forbidden to perform at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall, which at the time enacted a white performers-only policy.

Through the urging of then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, an open-air concert was instead organized for the singer; and there on the steps of the memorial, Anderson opened her performance with the song. She bewitched a crowd of more than 75,000 people. Watch her sing “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” below.

Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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